How to Ease Keyboard Limitations on Your Mac

By Joe Hutsko, Barbara Boyd

If you have physical limitations using the keyboard, the Mac offers two solutions: Sticky Keys and Slow Keys. Sticky Keys can help you use keystroke shortcuts, such as ⌘+P (Print), which usually require pressing two or more keys at the same time.

1Choose Command→System Preferences and click the Accessibility icon.

By turning on Sticky Keys, you can use keystroke shortcuts by pressing one key at a time in sequence. Press the modifier key first, such as the ⌘ key, and it “sticks” in place and waits until you press a second key to complete the keystroke shortcut.

2Click Keyboard in the Interacting section in the left pane of the window, as shown.

3(Optional) Select the Enable Sticky Keys check box and then click Options to select any additional options you want to activate.

You can also make these adjustments here:

Press the Shift Key Five Times to Toggle Sticky Keys: You can turn the Sticky Keys feature on or off from the keyboard.

Beep When a Modifier Key Is Set: Alerts you when you press a so-called “modifier” key — a key such as Option or ⌘ — which is used in combination with another key to modify how that key works.

Display Pressed Keys On Screen: When activated, any modifier keys you press (such as the ⌘ or Option key) display onscreen in the corner you choose from the pop-up menu, so you can verify that you’ve pressed the right key.

4Click Done when you finish selecting your options.

Or, enable the Slow Keys feature slows the reaction time of the Mac every time you press a key. Normally when you press a key, the Mac accepts it right away, but Slow Keys can force a Mac to wait a long time before accepting the typed key.

That way, your Mac will ignore any accidental taps on the keyboard and patiently wait until you hold down a key for a designated period before it accepts it as valid.

5(Optional) Select the Enable Slow Keys check box and then click its Options button.

When you enable Slow Keys, you can adjust the amount of time that passes from when you touch a key and when it’s activated. Here are your choices:

Use Click Key Sounds: This option causes your Mac to make a clicking sound every time you press a key to give you audible feedback.

Acceptance Delay: Dragging this slider to the left lengthens the time it takes your Mac to recognize when you press and hold down a key; dragging the slider to the right shortens the time your Mac waits to recognize when you press and hold down a key.

6Press Done when you finish selecting your options.

Click the Close button or press ⌘+Q to quit System Preferences.

7Or go on to the next section to set up other Accessibility functions.

If you have physical limitations using the mouse or trackpad, you can turn on the Mouse Keys feature, which lets you control the mouse through the numeric keys. Click the Accessibility icon in System Preferences and then click Mouse & Trackpad in the list on the left pane of the window (see the figure). Select the Enable Mouse Keys check box, which then activates the keys on the keyboard to function.